As a mom I often find myself in the midst of a guilt trip over not doing more for the earth my son will inherit. These days most of us accept the realities of climate change. We know we need to curb our dependence on traditional energy sources or face devastating consequences — but knowing something must be done and knowing what to do are very different things. As individuals, it can feel like we have little power to make a difference. It can feel hopeless.
But every action counts. And if we all make a little effort just imagine the change we could bring! There are lots of things we CAN do — on our own, at home — to conserve energy and lower our carbon footprint. Reducing energy consumption for everyday tasks not only helps reduce emissions linked to climate change — it may even save you some money! And doing my small part helps me feel better about the future that lies ahead for all of our children. Read on to see the ways I try to minimize our energy use at home, then give one — or a few — a try in yours, too.
1. Keep it to yourself
Keeping inside air cool when it’s hot outside and the heat trapped when it’s frigid out is a great way to conserve energy at home. A good place to start is with the insulation. Just like the top of your head, poorly insulated walls or roofs can let air escape, forcing your heating and cooling system to work harder to do its job. And closing curtains and doors can help keep the heat out and the cold in — and vice versa — as the season demands.
2. Embrace technology
Installing a digital thermostat — ranging in cost from $35 to a few hundred dollars — is a simple way to minimize your energy usage without thinking about it. Fully programmable, these thermostats can be set to turn down at bedtime, and when you head to work and back up before you rise or make it home from your day. And if your schedule changes you can override the program at any time.
3. Power down
Unplugging electronics not in use is an excellent way to curb consumption. Unused appliances still consume standby, or phantom power, which can account for up to 10% of an average households annual electrical use.
4. Wash Responsibly
Laundry. No matter how many loads we do it always seems like there’s more lurking on the periphery. And although it needs to be done, there are a couple ways to lessen the impact on the environment and your pocketbook. First and foremost — wash in cold water. It’s expensive to heat all the water needed for a load, and there are detergents that do their best work cold. Second — always run a full load. You’ll find you need less time and fewer loads to get it done — which means more bang for your buck too.
5. Hang Dry
A simple clothesline in the backyard — or an outdoor laundry rack — is a great tool for lowering energy consumption, depending on where you live. For most Canadians there are least a few months each year we can hang our clothes on the line — and golly, does air dried laundry ever smell good! During the months we’re at the mercy of our dryer, placing a dry towel with the wet clothes can help speed up the whole process, and so uses less energy.
6. Spend smart
When old appliances die, do your best replace them with energy-efficient models. Although it will likely cost more upfront, the savings over the life of the appliance makes the extra expense worth it — so take the risk if you can.
7. Light right
Replace inefficient halogen bulbs with efficient LED globes. Not only do they produce more output with less energy, they last longer too — saving you money, and time. And be sure to turn off lights when unneeded. Just a few hours less a day can really add up over time.
8. Save Water
Water is precious, but a resource that many Canadians take for granted. Taking shorter showers, fixing leaky faucets, and only running the dishwasher when it’s full are great places to begin when it comes to water conservation. And collecting rainwater for use on the lawn or in the garden is a simple way to get the most from Mother Nature.
9. Go Green
About half the greenhouse gases released by an average household each year are linked to electricity generation. One way to lessen the impact of our reliance on electricity is to switch to a green energy provider. Companies — like Bullfrog Power — generate power from clean and renewable resources — wind, rain, hydro, natural gas, and solar — but not coal. While green energy does cost a little more than traditional providers, the cost is manageable for many.
Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based freelance writer, bartender, and editor of the Whole Family Happiness Project. She lives in Halifax, with her son and a penchant for really strong tea, yoga, hammocks, and hoppy beer.
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